Jeffrey Xiong

Undergraduate Student, Columbia University
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About Jeffrey Xiong

I am a first-year student at Columbia University majoring in Biology and East Asian Studies. I was born in Canada but grew up with my grandparents in rural China much of my early childhood. I am very passionate about the intersection of science and society, with research interests in neuropsychiatric illness and modern Chinese politics.

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Scholar

Area of Expertise

Biomedical Sciences Health Medicine

Research Topic

Biological Sciences Chinese Studies Medical Sciences

Laidlaw Cohort Year

2021

University

Columbia University

I am from:

Canada China United States of America

I speak:

English French Mandarin

My hobbies/interests are:

Chess Cooking/Baking Hiking/walking Music Politics & current events Table tennis Volunteering Writing/blogging

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes

Yes

Influencer Of

Topics

Channels contributed to:

Social Sciences Medicine & Health STEM

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University Undergraduate Scholars

Recent Comments

Jun 05, 2022
Replying to Dennis Zhang

Week #1:

For the first half of my undergraduate career, my pursuits have largely been unified by the central thread of a fascination with genetics. This summer, I’m making the transition from exploring genetics as a researcher- to serving those who are vulnerable in the genetics field.

Last summer, I conducted two types of research. As a part of the Laidlaw program, I conducted qualitative bioethics research on precision medicine research, a field that promises to combine genetic, environment, and lifestyle data in personalizing healthcare. Outside of Laidlaw, I conducted basic biology research on CRISPR genome engineering technologies in the Sternberg Lab.

This summer, my goal is to serve the rare genetic disease community through two simultaneous projects- one in-person and one virtual. First, I will be developing virtual support groups for the parents of youth with sickle cell disease (a rare genetic blood condition) through the Cambridge-based non-profit called NextStep. I was inspired to create these support groups through my past experience leading a NextStep program called STRIVE, which mentors youth with sickle cell. In STRIVE, we occasionally host programs called “sickle cell panels” where our program mentees learn from and pose questions to older folks also living with sickle cell. Youth have always remarked how eye-opening these panels have been, so the basic idea was: why not allow the parents of these youth also connect, share resources, and offer support to one another?

In tandem, I will be in-person volunteering at the Terence Cardinal Cooke (TCC) Healthcare Center in NYC. The TCC offers both long-term and short-term care in the form of a traditional nursing home, sub-acute rehabilitation program, specialty hospital for youth, and, most famously, a dedicated care unit for those with Huntington’s disease (a rare genetic neurodegenerative brain disorder). The latter is where I will be spending the bulk of my time, where I hope to get a better sense of what it is like working in hospice care and, more specifically, caring for those with a rare neurodegenerative disease.

As different as my aforementioned research might appear from my more service-oriented work this summer, one transferable skill (or tool) that I’ll be taking with me is the ability to navigate an inter-disciplinary, highly collaborative setting. Last summer, whether my colleagues specialized in anthropology, data science, or molecular biophysics, drawing on diverse talents, while clearly communicating what our high-level goals were, allowed me to move research projects forward in a quicker, more organized fashion. This summer, I will similarly find myself in multi-disciplinary, collaborative settings filled with recreational therapists, physicians, and non-profit program directors. It will be really important to continue leveraging diverse expertise to further my project goals!

Hi Dennis! This project sounds like a really interesting way to use your research experiences to work with the people behind the genes. Working between STRIVE and TCC sounds really exciting, especially getting a broad range of experiences working with different disorders.

Jun 03, 2022

Week Two:
Does your research incorporate any outside participation, such as interviews or ethnographic observation? If so, how do you plan on approaching research participants or spaces in an effective and, most importantly, ethical manner?  If you are not conducting ethnographic research, what communities do you engage in your research, and how have they informed your project?

A lot has changed over the past week! Originally, I was hoping on conducting interviews in the Boston area with local queer folks, but as I dived deeper into conversations with my mentors, I think I want to situate this project less on local queer experiences and more broadly on queer experiences interacting between tech developers and creators (since that is the general focus of Queer in AI and I am getting more direction there). I think this is a cleaner and more directed goal with regards to developing standards of use for artificial neural networks.

How do you find your own self coming through in your research, if it all? Is your project more suited towards the invisibility of the researcher, or is it a project that would benefit from the researcher being more present (whatever ‘present’ means)?

This question is a bit challenging to tackle. The invisibility of the researcher (me!) is in some ways ideal, in some ways impossible; in some ways undesirable, in some ways inevitable. The end product of this summer's work is invariably biased by my own experiences in tech, the particular fields and methods I'm interested in, and my own negotiations with identity. This is good to recognize. This also allows me to provide my own ontological perspective of how artificial neural networks ought to be used and endows the standard of use with a deeper understanding of one particular position than a truly invisible paper would. Yet this may also blind the final result to all other positions from which I could have spoken. This is why collaboration with others is key and I'm hoping to ask my mentors for advice in this.

May 28, 2022

Week 1:

As you set out on your research or community engagement project, do you find yourself experiencing any worries or insecurities about saying something that’s already been said? How do we as researchers and/or volunteers learn to address or set aside those insecurities or, better yet, to use them to our advantage?

If your project this summer differs from your project last summer, has last summer’s project influenced your project this year, and if so how?  If your project is different, what tools have you developed to help you work on this project?

In an unexpected turn of events my work with Laidlaw began early! This summer I am working in conjunction with the MetaConscious Lab at MIT and Queer in AI to develop a set of standards of use for Artificial Neural Networks, a particular subdivision of biologically-inspired Artificial Intelligence. Although the field itself diverges greatly from my previous summer's work with trans and nonbinary Chinese-American oral histories, the methods, approaches, and considerations I am using on the day-to-day are heavily inspired by my experiences from the previous summer. This summer's work builds upon models of intersectionality I explored last summer and analyzing how emerging models of artificial intelligence can induce harm through examples from oral histories. I also hope to get back into more oral histories this summer to build better resistance models!

Ironically, in some sense, this week I focused almost entirely on what has already been said. I don't have much familiarity with Artificial Neural Networks so this week was a lot of practicing, listening, and learning how they work and talking to people at Queer in AI to learn about their own experiences with them. From here, I anticipate using this as a launching point to get into the more grounded sociological work analyzing particular models that are common and how queer resistance can foment against them.

Jun 04, 2021
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

Throughout the past four weeks, I have definitely encountered many sources that have subtly or monumentally changed the way I look at my topic. My project has changed from how museums deal with unethically acquired early 20th century Chinese art to a comparative study of repatriation qualifications and, finally, to a look at complications for the nationalist rhetoric China uses regarding repatriation. My scope has narrowed and shifted slightly from my original intentions, but I believe my bigger picture is still trying to figure out the complex machinations of Chinese art repatriation. 

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

I predominantly read scholarly articles and books that I find on CLIO, but I have recently found news media to be particularly important. Lesser-known incidents of repatriation to China are rarely discussed in scholarly articles, but news media, particularly sites devoted to China, are overflowing with this information. Although they are relatively untrustworthy, many articles can also give me a jumping-off point to do further research. Older news media is also a major asset, especially when analyzing western reception and justifications of looting. 

Hi Jacqueline! This is certainly a really interesting progression of ideas, and is one that I think makes a logical sense, especially given the relationship between nationalism, authoritarianism, and art (especially in China, given the origins of the CCP and its relationship with art). In my personal experience, news media has been very useful in looking at China through a critical lense, especially Chinese-language sources and social media, which can be very helpful as well. Good luck in your research, and I hope to learn more!

Jun 03, 2021
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

The primary challenge I have encountered is sorting through the diversity of experience in the trans/nonbinary Chinese-American community; realistically, it would be impossible to get a representative sample, especially during the pandemic. These challenges have shifted my project away from an attempt at an overarching picture of experiences towards a "case study"-esque approach, examining how these lived experiences challenge dominant narratives on an individual level.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

Reaching out to community leaders and figures has been particularly useful. Especially in sociological research, there is so much knowledge available outside of academia in the voices of those who have worked or lived in particular conditions for years. Even if someone does not have formal academic training, they can provide valuable insight -- often more useful than plain academic literature, in my experience.

May 27, 2021
Replying to Eva Brander Blackhawk

I'm planning to create a collection of creative essays and illustrations and try to integrate some of the cultural knowledge and words I've learned. I'm hoping to create the image of what I hope the language and future will look like for my communities. A lot of my work this summer is also getting background and context for next summer when I plan to be actually in the community and hopefully able to learn more of the language. I don't yet have enough language to do something like an illustrated children's book but I would like to make something like that next summer. The project has already been so rewarding personally and I've learned a lot about how my family history connects to the larger context of the tribe/region and nation. 

I think the most beautiful thing about my research is seeing the resiliency of culture and language and the people attached to it. A big part of the genocide and assimilation was removal from family and language and so reconnecting to that feels very important. 

Hi Eva! Your work is super inspiring and I think that sort of "future-imagination" (not sure if that's a word) of language is really important, especially as many descriptive efforts of linguists tend to imagine languages in isolation and apart from development and usage. Your plan for next year sounds super engaging -- especially having a children's book! -- and I can't wait to learn more about it!

May 27, 2021
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper you hope to get published? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

I'm not exactly sure what the long-term implications of my project will be, but I am hoping to write up at least a case study or even a paper, perhaps following my subjects into the post-COVID-19 world in the fall. Next summer, I aim to cover trans rights in China itself (motivated in part by my oral history interviews), so I presume the direct aims of my research will change, but the core methods will probably remain the same.

  • Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

This particular project matters a lot because there is literally no literature specifically on trans/nonbinary Chinese-Americans. Even expanding to trans/nonbinary Asian-Americans in general, the literature base is still incredibly small. The community is also especially vulnerable during the pandemic, at the intersection of the rise in sinophobia/anti-Asian violence, transphobic violence, and economic instability. Large-scale studies on the LGBTQIA+ community and the Asian-American community also tend to neglect trans/nonbinary issues as well (e.g. the landmark 2004 report on the LGBTQIA+ community, consisting of over 3000 people, had 14 trans people total included), so it is important to illustrate the particular struggles of this community.

May 21, 2021
Replying to Suan Lee

1. What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

I've been thinking a lot about how to make my research more accessible to a public audience beyond Columbia. I'm interested in learning more about digital and public humanities, and potentially creating an online exhibit or contributing to the Ambedkar Initiative's podcast at the end of the summer in addition to making a poster. Because my research involves examining the ways in which various American intellectuals informed B.R. Ambedkar's own ideas and activism, I've also been wary of inadvertently minimizing Ambedkar's legacy as a pioneering intellectual in his own right.

2. As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

To be frank, I've spent the last two weeks doing preliminary research as the microfilms I needed for my assignment only arrived yesterday. I haven't made enough progress to have a firmly established viewpoint yet, but I'm keeping the bias workshop we did our first week of Laidlaw in mind as I dive deeper into my work. 

Hi Suan! I think adding some of your work to the Ambedkar Initiative would be a fantastic idea, although you definitely would have to do some work to tailor it more in line to the Initiative's goals and mission. I do think that it would be a great way to make your work, whatever direction it is in, more accessible, so best of luck!